The Digital Shoehorn: The Future is Wrong
LMFM's Dave Bedwood: Advertising of tomorrow, excuse me, you've forgotten something.By: Dave Bedwood, Published: Oct 20, 2010
We open on John Anderton strutting through a mall. It's 2054. As he walks his retinas are being scanned, and personalised holographic messages are beamed directly into his eyes.
"Hello, John Anderton. You could do with a Guinness right about now?" shouts the sort of annoying dickhead you'd want to drown in a bathtub of Guinness.
"Get away, John Anderton, forget your troubles." says a beautiful air hostess-type, being as persuasive as a pot-holing holiday to a Chilean miner.
Why, in the future, is the advertising always so shit?
Has the gene pool eradicated any lasting genetic code from Abbott, Bogusky, French, et al?
Whenever a film offers a vision of the future, advertising adopts its usual role: a symbol of a morally bankrupt world. A world sick with rampant consumerism that will stop at nothing for your time and money.
In the real world, the story is pretty much the same; even when a friend regurgitates "I'm on a horse", or pretends to drum like a gorilla, they'll still, when asked, say that advertising is a poo that needs flushing.
For Minority Report Spielberg got together a think tank of scientists, philosophers, etc. to make detailed and considered guesses on future technologies—from cars and architecture to telecommunications and drugs.
Obviously none of them spent any time writing a decent ad (although that would be an interesting bit of business for an agency to pick up), because that's the hard bit. No, instead, their ideas tapped into the obvious: advertising will get more invasive and more sinister.
Of course, I know, it's a bloody film. But forgetting that detail, it is interesting how films, (actually any kind of future gazing) always have the same ideas. Try it yourself; think about advertising in the future. You'll go down a couple of roads, and then end up with invasive media ideas and products that have become more intelligent.
Now, forget those two things, and try instead to think of a good cartoon character, a funny slogan or catchphrase, a short film that will make someone piss themselves, a storyline that will make an audience cry.
Hard. Actually, pretty impossible. It's a tough job right now, never mind in 60 years time.
Just ask the people in 1950, who thought that by the year 2001 we'd have robot butlers and intelligent kitchens, why they couldn't predict the obvious hilarity of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The boring fact is this: the things that made people laugh, cry, worry, envy in 1950 are in principle (though, mostly, not in execution) the same as in 2000.
The one thing that gets forgotten in all these predictions, is the one thing that doesn't really change, people's brains.
Technology doesn't change us. It just allows, moulds, highlights behaviours that are hardwired into our brain's software. As one advertising legend once said—"It took millennia for our brains to develop; it will take millennia for them to vary even a little bit."
For example, the millions invested in social media (not to mention the millions of power-point slides), boils down to teenagers, being able to bitch with one another, whilst they watch American Idol; or friends using Facebook to upload pictures, just to rub their friends faces in their incredible social life.
In this respect, if advertising that is beamed into your retina does not appeal to you on an emotional, intellectual, gut level, it will be worthless and ignored. No different to the fate of every shit piece of junk mail today.
It will, as in the past, come down to creativity, which you just can't predict.
It's not exciting, but it is the future, and if you don't agree? Well, when the time comes, you can just talk to my Apple Data-RaX Hand because my cryogenically thawed face ain't listenin'.
Dave Bedwood is creative partner at Lean Mean Fighting Machine.